RICHARD MARX – Inside My Head

FRONTIERS RECORDS     2012

Something of a forgotten man since his hit making days dried up in the mid nineties, singer-songwriter  Richard Marx has been making up for lost time over the last year or two. His shows at Shepherds Bush Empire and the Albert Hall were superb and indeed reawakened my interest in an artist I could largely take or leave in his heyday. Now Frontiers Records release his first conventional album of new material in eight years. ‘New ‘ is relative as effectively this is a compilation of songs from his US or download only releases Duo,  Emotional Remains and the acoustic Stories to Tell, with  a few new songs, designed to catch European audiences up with his recent work. It also comes with a bonus disc of rerecordings of his classic songs, but it is the new material that should concern us here.

He still has a pleasant, clear voice with just enough of an edge to make it distinctive, and the 13 songs on view demonstrate he still has the knack of writing commercial but intelligent songs.  However the arrangements and productions are firmly rooted in the 21st century and stand comparison with modern country artists like Keith Urban, with the odd bit of (gulp) Coldplay-style piano . Most of the first half of the album are well constructed, mid tempo songs like Had Enough and On the inside- both co-written with Chris Daughtry-  with a few ballads, such as the haunting tribute to his father, Through My Veins.

However the second half of the album is the more interesting as he dips a toe in some unchartered waters- after the intro to Come Running  dabbles in funk, Scars is a full blown funk rock workout not out of place on a Glenn Hughes album,  while All Over Me is a spiky piece of pop punk which might shock those who associate him with saccharine ballads.  A pair of crisp pop rockers in Over My Head and Part of Me finish proceedings on an uptempo note.

Old fans will enjoy such a strong set of songs and they are contemporary enough to attract new admirers. However, much as I might like to pretend otherwise, they are more likely to become hits in the hands of younger stars rather than a near 50 year old famous for his former luxuriant mullet.  Expect this talented catalogue to be raided by the Cowells of this world for future series of American Idol.

**** 1/4

Andy Nathan


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